Saad al-Din al-Atbash, head of Gaza’s water authority, told Anadolu Agency that “The recent war destroyed everything in Gaza, many sewage pipes and water networks are still buried under the rubble”. This, along with the damaged electricity network, has been further aggrevated by the weekend storm.
Al Bawaba reports that “streets in Khan Younis in Gaza had already been swamped on Friday and contained homes filled with water”. Local resident Yousef Al-Najjar stated that "The water from rain and the sewage water flooded into the container. Look, everything is flooded, all my stuff is already wet. I have nothing to sit on".
Thousands of displaced Palestinians are living in tents or caravans, which have little or no protection from the rain. In the southern Gaza town of Khuzaa, “Rainwater leaked into the caravan from the roof and from the sides just as winter has begun,” says Osama al-Najjar, who lives with his wife and daughter in a 30-square-meter caravan after his house was completely destroyed by Israel.
Last winter a devastating storm exacerbated the already poor humanitarian situation in Gaza, a situation created by the on-going siege enforced by Israel since 2007. Heavy flooding resulted in the displacement of over 10,000 people according to the United Nations, causing around $64 million worth of damage.
Following Israel’s summer assault on Gaza and the destruction it wrought, this winter could prove even more deadly. The mayor of Khuzaa warns that the effect of rain could be more difficult that the war itself. “As winter approaches, there will be a humanitarian disaster in Khuzaa because we can’t control the route of floods after the war has changed the structure of the landscape and destroyed all constituents of life in the town including water, electricity and telecommunication networks and infrastructure,” he said.
UN agencies estimate that around 90,000 homes must be rebuilt, in addition to hundreds of schools and other major infrastructure, which were systematically destroyed in Israel’s attack. However, despite this Israel’s siege on Gaza remains; only 440 tons of cement have entered Gaza since the August ceasefire.
Israeli authorities announced that the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings would be closed until further notice, according to the Ma'an news agency, following reports that a projectile fired from Gaza landed in Israel overnight Friday. No injuries or damage were reported. This move comes despite the fact that there have been numerous reports of Israeli ceasefire breaches in the past two months, with no response from Gazan factions.
Israeli authorities claim the crossings would be open for “humanitarian emergencies”, which seems like some form of cruel joke; as Gaza remains in ruins and winter approaches, what thenclassifies as a humanitarian emergency? It further begs the question what will it take for the world to stop standing idly by.
Instead, Electronic Intifada reports on UN complicity in maintaining Israel's siege on Gaza, reporting that “under the guise of reconstruction, the UN will be monitoring and gathering private information about Palestinian households to be passed onto Israel, which will have a veto over which families get aid to rebuild their homes”.
Following a briefing in Jerusalem, given by Nicholas O’Regan, country director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), Electronic Intifada reports that Israel will be given an effective veto over who gets aid, violating a fundamental principle of humanitarian aid agencies against beneficiary vetting based on such criteria as religion or political affiliation.